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"Small Town Sins" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider

News about "Small Town Sins" just reappeared because it’s been nominated for a Mystery Writers Edgar Award, in the debut category. Winners of the Edgars will be announced on May 1 in New York City. The entire list of nominees can be accessed at the

Locksburg, Pennsylvania is the setting for “Small Town Sins,” a gritty page turner with an addictive storyline by Ken Jaworowski. The book features three main characters, Nathan, Callie, and Andy, as well as other minor players. The characters’ lives become encumbered because of their own moral failings, or by bad cards they are dealt, or by victimization at the hands of people they love.

Nathan is 17 when he makes a choice that sets the stage for his demise. The son of a deacon-father and a wheelchair-bound mother, Nathan gets involved with LeeLee Roland, a 15-year-old girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

Their brief fling ends in a pregnancy and a deception on Nathan’s part that foreshadows other bad decisions he makes when he’s married to the love of his life, Paula, a nurse at the Locksburg General. Paula is a good nurse and wife, dependable, loyal and caring. The greatest heartache for Nathan and Paula is that they can’t have children, something they want more than anything. 

Callie also is nurse at the hospital, and just as dedicated to her work as Paula. Most recently, Callie has taken a special interest in Gabriella, a teenager who’s dying, the daughter of religious zealots, so extreme they can’t be reasoned with. Callie has empathy for Gabriella because Callie has known hard times too. She was born with a congenital birth defect that required multiple surgeries and has caused significant facial scarring that makes Callie feel self-consciousness and lonely; no one asks her out because of her deformity. Callie is determined that Gabriella see her dream realized before the girl’s death.

Another major character, Andy, ends up in Locksburg General Hospital as the result of a run-in he has with a priest. Andy hasn’t always walked the straight and narrow. He’s an addict as was his wife, Angie, but when Angie gets pregnant, the couple swears off drugs. They stay clean for their daughter Angie, a child with Down syndrome and a heart defect. The couple adores Angie. Her birth saves them from being out on the street again, until fate deals them a blow they can’t recover from.

“Small Town Sins” is an easy book to get into, its complex characters holding your interest throughout, though at times one minor character is a bit too seamy to stomach. There is a surprise that occurs toward the end that made for an unexpected plot twist.      

Throughout the book, I was anxious to see how the three main characters’ lives would intersect—they didn’t in any way I’d tried to foresee. Their common denominator was Locksburg General, where Callie worked, where Andy was a patient, and where Nathan has yet another moral slip.




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